Simone Denny is no stranger to change.
She grew up in a home surrounded by soul music, but the Juno award-winning songstress began her career singing Euro-dance music in the 1990s. As a part of the platinum selling group Love Inc., Denny, alongside producers Chris Sheppard and Brad Daymond, would go on to tour the world and receive tremendous success.
The singer-songwriter was awarded a SOCAN Music Songwriter’s Award for Love Inc.’s “What Do You Love.” The group’s songs “Broken Bones” and “You’re a Superstar” became international smash hits.
With all that success it would have been easy for Denny to continue making dance music, but for her it was time to make a change – to get back to her roots and show the world another side of her.
It’s not far-fetched though – go back and listen to any of the Love Inc. songs and you’ll hear an intensity within Denny’s voice that could only come from soul music.
“The intensity, the power, you adjust it a bit for the genre, but it’s always been there,” she reminds us. “Anybody who knows me from childhood has seen me singing all those old songs.”
Inside a downtown Toronto HMV store, Simone Denny speaks about the makings of her recently released debut solo album, The Stereo Dynamite Sessions Vol. 1 and her musical influences. Perusing the music store, she flexed her immense knowledge of soul and demonstrated that there really isn’t a genre of music Denny doesn’t listen to, or know.
She says proudly, “I’m very eclectic; I’m always the Black chick that’s on a bit of a different tip.”
I think it’s important to have balance as an artist and to try new things, so this is exactly what I’m doing here.
WHAT RECORDS OR ARTISTS ARE YOU LISTENING TO RIGHT NOW? I’m still listening to a lot of soul classics right now, just because I’m still in that moment right now, but I do have my Diplo, my Justin Bieber, my Andra Day and Leon Bridges. I love Leon Bridges; I can’t seem to get tickets to his show – Leon if you see this, hook me up! But I love Leon Bridges. I love the simplicity and honesty in his music.
HOW EXCITED ARE YOU ABOUT THIS ALBUM FINALLY GETTING DONE? Really excited about this album, long overdue! Long overdue project, most of you know me for a lot of dance music and now I’ve veered off and gone [back into soul], which is where I started out.
LET’S TALK ABOUT THAT – THAT’S AN INTERESTING MIX. SO YOU GO FROM DOING DANCE MUSIC AND EVERYONE KNOWS YOU FROM LOVE INC. AND THEN YOU GO ONTO SOUL. THAT’S AN INTERESTING TRANSITION DON’T YOU THINK? Well, actually not a transition for me. [I’m a] child of Caribbean parents – and Guyanese parents – grew up listening to Etta James, Temptations, Sam Cooke, so that’s where I learned to sing and those are the vocals that I brought to dance music. All the power that you hear is from different women from the disco era, different things that my parents would listen to and that’s what I put into my vocals when I did dance music and so going back to this is very natural for me. I’m just taking it back to the roots.
I WAS LISTENING TO IT, AND THERE’S A LOT OF HEARTBREAK. IS EVERYTHING GOOD? (Laughs). I’m good! You know what, straight up, we’ve all grown up, everybody’s experienced life, had relationships. And I can take you up and be on the dance floor have your hands in the air and I can also get down to the point where I hear you, I feel you, and I’ve been there with you and I get it. So I think it’s important to have balance as an artist and to try new things, so this is exactly what I’m doing here.
DO YOU HAVE A FAVOURITE SONG OR A SONG THAT WHEN YOU WERE WRITING IT WAS LIKE ‘YOU KNOW WHAT, THIS REALLY HITS HOME?’ Actually one my favourites isn’t one that I wrote, but “Your Love Fades Away” for me is very ‘anthemic’. As you were saying, it sounds like a sad song, but for me it’s a song where it’s like you’ve realized that this is not working. You’ve done everything to make it happen and when the morning comes, it’s over and it’s time to get strong and move on.
IT’S REALLY THERAPEUTIC I THINK. I WAS LISTENING TO IT AT NIGHT WHILE DRIVING AND I WAS THINKING I COULD REALLY SEE PEOPLE VIBING TO THIS ALBUM. HOW’S THE RESPONSE BEEN? Very good, actually, it’s been really exciting because first people were like, ‘Are you leaving dance music?’ and I’m like, ‘No, okay I’m not leaving dance music.’ Just like when I used to do R&B music, I’m not leaving R&B, this is just another side of me. I said, ‘Sit back, forget what I’ve done and just listen to it. Listen to the lyrics,’ and people were like ‘Okay I get it, I get it now.’
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE CREATIVE PROCESS AND ANY CHALLENGES THAT MAY HAVE HAPPENED WHILE RECORDING? You know, I think it was just life. As we sailed through it, some of us got sick, some of us were just like, ‘I need a break,’ to rest [our] ears, and rethink some lyrics. But I think we had a lot of fun tapping in and going, ‘How much soul do we bring to this?’ It’s just been a joy to do this, it’s just something I wanted to do for a long time and a lot of people have asked me, ‘When are you going to do a soul classics album?’ and this is the closest I’m getting to that right now. So kick back and enjoy.
Photos © Janelle Scott-Johnson & Urbanology Magazine
Video © Isa Ransome & Urbanology Magazine